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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - June 18, 2013

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Brown blade tips on Habiturf from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

After carefully following all the directions, II recently planted Habiturf and it's growing well. After the first mowing, however, we discovered the top half of the blades turned brown. We have a push-mower, set on the highest setting and it is still very long and shaggy looking. What happened? It's only June and as it gets hotter, I don't want to burn the grass.

ANSWER:

We are sure you have already read our article and video on Habiturf and its associated links, but we are including the reference so others might do so. We are going to read back through those materials and see if we can find any clue as to whether browning stem blades is good,  bad or normal. Here are a couple of paragraphs we found worth repeatiing:

"Mowing.
We suggest a 3 to 4 inch cut for a great-looking, dense turf, resistant to weeds and light to moderate foot traffic. However, a 6- inch cut will produce a beautiful deeper lawn with a few seed heads if watered. Mow once every 3 to 5 weeks when growing and not at all when drought or cold dormant. Mowing shorter —2 inches or less— will damage your lawn's health. Conversely, not mowing at all through the growing season will produce a longer turf (8 inches or so high) with a lower density. This may be acceptable depending on how you use your lawn. However, allowing the grass to seed-out once a year, perhaps when you go on vacation, guarantees a good seed bank - insurance against drought, heavy foot traffic and weeds. It also provides high habitat value.

Make sure that the lawn overwinters as a thick lush turf greater than 4 inches high. Observations have clearly shown that this dramatically reduces weeds the following spring – such as clover, dandelions and thistles. This mean that the last mow should be a high (> 4 inches) mow and no later than Mid-October."

Next, we went to the Internet and found this article from Spring-Green on Lawn Mowing Tips. The quotation below from that article comes as close as we found to answering your question:

"Tip #5: Maintain a healthy lawn by sharpening and balancing your mower blade

We receive grass care inquiries every year about lawns that look brown even after periods of rain and cooler weather. In almost every case, this is the result of a dull mower blade shredding the tips of the grass. When a blade is dull, it rips the turf instead of cutting cleanly. The ripped tips then bleach out and turn brown, giving the whole lawn a tan or brown cast. Having the blade sharpened and balanced once per year is usually not enough especially on larger properties. To keep your grass growing strong, you should touch up your blade edge with a file or have it re-sharpened 2 to 3 times per year."

Even though this particular Mr. Smarty Plants Team member lives in an apartment and hasn't mowed a lawn in years, that is the most reasonable suggestion we found for your browned blade tips.

 

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